Green on green salad

It's always interesting to me to hear about what people do when they get stressed. Some people bite their nails. Some eat a lot. Some don't eat enough. Some people run. Some do yoga. Some people call a friend. Some just sit and think about how stressed they are.

I work in a treatment center for eating disorders, and there are times when the job gets stressful. Emotionally exhausting, really. It's a highly confrontational environment where staff is constantly noticing and correcting rituals, redirecting conversations, and helping sick people change the thought processes that feed into their disorders. I'm naturally a trusting person, so it's still a little strange to me to always be asking myself "Is he/she telling the truth, or is their eating disorder telling them to be deceptive?" It's a job where I have to muster up boldness, sometimes second-guess myself, and always wish I could do more.

When the stress from work or just life in general starts to get to me, I find myself longing to be outdoors. Sometimes, a quick barefoot run around in the grass is all I need to get myself grounded again. I realize this may make me sound like a tree-hugging hippie, but laying on a blanket on a lawn or cartwheeling down a grassy hill can quickly and completely change my mood. I'm not sure why this is: it might be because I spent a lot of time running around barefoot as a kid, but I think a more likely reason is that it reminds me of how big the world is outside the things running through my head. This is one reason why it was so tough to move away from Colorado last year - the stunning nature is always in your face, demanding attention. Someday I'll live in a beautiful place again, but for now, my little lawn is doing a great job of keeping me sane.

This salad reminds me of the things I love about the outdoors: lush shades of green, a variety of shapes and textures, and sharp flavors and smells. Use whatever greens you like. The arugula and Tuscan kale here add a bitter edge, so use milder spinach and lettuces if you want a more neutral flavor. The creamy avocado dressing is the star, so don't be afraid to let it shine.
We all should eat more leafy green vegetables.

Before you roll your eyes and move your mouse toward that red X, hear me out. Salads are not the answer to good health. But they can be super tasty and filled with nutrition.

Leafy greens - particularly dark leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, arugula, and kale - are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fill our bodies with great nutrients. The darker/richer the color, the more nutritional goodness they have to offer. They've got fiber to help fill your stomach and keep you feeling full longer, vitamin C to help ward off illness and create healthy collagen, and beta-carotene to support healthy eyes and protect your skin from environmental damage. They also contain high amounts of folate, a B-vitamin important during pregnancy for promoting healthy spinal development of growing babies. Some leafies like kale and bok choy are good sources of calcium. One study, in fact, showed our bodies' absorb calcium better from these vegetables than from milk. Impressive!

Salads can be crazy awesome if we fill them with awesome things. Let's make 'em great!
Good parmesan is a must. Parmigiano-Reggiano is the best, hands down, but it can be pricey. Grana Padano is a more affordable (but still tasty) choice.
Green on green salad
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
Serves 4
Note: The appeal of this salad is the multiple layers of nutritious green vegetables. I used the greens I had on hand, but by all means, substitute the ingredients below for whatever leafy beauties sound good to you. Trader Joe's sells several ready-to-eat mixes of various greens if you're looking for a shortcut.

2 cups broccoli, divided into small florets
Olive oil
8 cups leafy greens of choice (I used spinach, Tuscan kale, arugula, and black seeded simpson lettuce)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 scallions, sliced
Shaved parmesan cheese

Creamy lemon-avocado dressing (makes about 1/4 cup):
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon honey
2-3 tablespoons water
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Scatter the broccoli florets on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 5-7 minutes, until the edges start to get brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool.
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small food processor and whirl together. Add additional water to thin to desired consistency. Taste and adjust flavors to taste. 
  4. Combine the roasted broccoli, salad greens, and 1/4 cup parsley in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad greens and toss together. Sprinkle with the scallions, 1 tablespoon reserved parsley, and shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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